After ten days of solo travel, one hell of a podcast interview, and once again being contacted by many sexual trauma survivors, I am feeling free, sad, compassionate, burdened, happy, grateful, and like I need more coffee.
After 18 years of working in restaurants, hotels and busy offices, suddenly I find myself able to pursue my passion of abstract painting…working all alone in my kitchen studio and home office and well...loneliness happens.
Sometimes I talk to myself more in one day than I speak to other people. I’m not kidding. I talk to myself out loud throughout my work day because, frankly, I get tired of the quiet. I listen to music pretty much constantly, but sometimes I just want to hear other people’s voices. I’m not quite desperate enough to have the TV on all day but man, do I yearn for humans sometimes.
Before jumping full time into my career as a West Coast abstract painter, I worked in many different environments. Happening restaurants, bustling offices, full Yoga studios…I’ve had so many different careers but they all had one thing in common: I was always around people.
While I'm in the studio, I often day dream about being outside. Loneliness can make me wish to be anywhere but where I am.
Now I find myself alone in my house all day. Sometimes I relish in the quiet. Sometimes I feel the silence is WAY too loud. As a person who battles anxiety and depression, that quiet can sometimes feel utterly stifling and although I have a loving family and many friends, I can begin to feel pretty darn lonely.
Compound the physical loneliness with the fact that my daughter just turned 16, now has a car to get herself around and a very busy school and social life…well...I’ll just say that this year has been full of more transition than I was really ready for or expecting to deal with. Transitions are always harder than I think they will be. I knew that working from home and being self-employed was going to be challenging to begin with. But throw in early empty nest syndrome and suddenly I find myself alone in my work AND in my role as a Mom.
Just me...alone and thinking away.
Oddly enough, the loneliness can make it hard for me to motivate to be around people. Weird, huh? It’s like the sadness can wrap itself around me and I just don’t want to have to talk to anyone, even though all I really want are for people to be around. I also find that when my friends reach out to me, it’s always at inopportune moments…like in the middle of my work day. I vacillate between irritation when my friends call to wondering “why is no one calling me?!” Oh Lord…
I started working with a marketing firm who tells me that I should be posting pictures of me doing fun things with my friends once a week. I guess potential collectors also like to know that they’re buying from a well-rounded popular artist. Well guess what…I have lots of photos of me making art alone in my studio but very few of me doing fun things with friends. Queue violins here.
Oh me oh my! Whatever should a lonely artist do? Well, having good cries every couple of days is a release, but does that really help me battle the loneliness? Now, don’t feel too sorry for me. My life really is great. I have a loving and supportive family, amazing friends, and an incredible opportunity to follow my dreams. Unfortunately, knowing this only makes me feel guilty in my loneliness. So now I’m lonely, sad, AND riddled with guilt. Oy.
I am an extremely goal oriented, organized, efficient person. My social life has never needed managing. I used to have dinners, parties, coffees and live music dates multiple times a week. It used to be effortless, but life has changed. I’m older, not drinking anymore and immersed in my art work. Now, 9 months into my new business venture, I am realizing that perhaps I need to apply new strategies when it comes to being around people on a regular basis.
When THIS is what I'm thinking about while I'm working, it's time to go outside and play.
5 Ways Artists Can Battle Loneliness:
- Schedule a coffee, a hike, a dinner, an anything – Duh. This is so obvious that I’m not sure why it took me so long to do. I schedule everything from exercise to social media posts so why it took me so long to realize this is beyond me. I now try to schedule time with a friend at least once a week even if I have to do it a few weeks out. It’s good just to get dates on the calendar.
- Allow social media to boss me around– I mean, I already do. I have to post to social media every day and to do that I have to have content to post. So, I’d better be getting in my studio to make art every day or else my followers are going to get bored with me. Since I have been told that I need a friend post once a week, that means that I actually have to be physically next to a friend at least once a week in order to have photographic proof that I’m not an isolated hermit.
- Talk to my family when they get home – This is harder than it sounds. The 16-year-old, while she still seems to like me ok, doesn’t want to be bombarded with me talking at her as soon as she walks in…or at all really. My husband gets an ear full when he comes home. It continuously surprises me how many words come out of my mouth when I’ve been alone for a whole day or two. He’s a very patient and kind man and gives me ample time to vomit words before we surrender to exhaustion, fall down and go boom. Bless him.
- Talk to a therapist – Yeah yeah yeah. I went back to her this week after not going for about three years. I’ve gone on and off since I was 13. I won’t go way into this except to say that if therapy works for you, as it does for me, every couple of years a check in is a good thing. And let’s face it, talking to a therapist is different than talking to friends or family. I don’t have to censor myself at all, which can feel really liberating.
- Get outside and play – I know…this is on every single one of my “How to cope with _______” lists. But it’s true. Being outside helps with just about everything. Sometimes, I get up and go for a morning walk before anyone else in my family is up. Oddly enough, it’s alone time that I feel is really good for me. I don’t have to think about work, or anything in particular at all. I just get outside and get some exercise while the sun is coming up. I suppose when I’m in tune with nature, I feel I’m closer to something bigger than me and that is very comforting.
So yeah…I get lonely working by myself. I am getting better at applying old strategies to my loneliness, which is merely a new problem that old solutions will work for. I’ve just never in my life been in tune with this particular issue as much as I am now. As I’m typing this, new solutions are presenting themselves: I’ve just been invited to a meeting with 6 other professional artists this evening. So, I can now add to my list of strategies: “Get involved with local artist community.”
It makes sense…I mean…anyone who works alone is familiar with this particular struggle. Why should we have to struggle alone? So, I’m going to motivate and reach out more so I freak out less. Because even though I’m living my dream I’m also going through new experiences and transitions. Change is hard and loneliness can happen, even in noisy, crowded rooms.
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